Dining | Wine: The sips of ’07 

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As I was perusing the Top 100 wines from 2007 in the mid-January issue of Wine Spectator, I was struck by how many of those wines I hadn’t been privileged to sample. In large part, it’s because many of these wines—especially low-allocation boutique wines—simply weren’t available here in Zion. Others, frankly, were just way out of my price range. City Weekly reimburses me for wines I write about, but I’m pretty sure I’d be told to hit the road if I submitted a bill for, let’s say, a $500 bottle of 2001 Cheval Blanc. So, my Top Wines of 2007 don’t exactly coincide with Wine Spectator and, probably, not with your own list, either. As I always say about restaurants and wine: Your mileage may vary. Anyway, here are a handful of the wines that made me happiest in 2007.

Oregon winemakers have been making a splash for a while now with their world-class Pinot Noir. One of the yummiest I was able to get my lips around this year was 2004 “Evenstad Reserve” Domaine Serene Pinot Noir ($53). This lovely, plumy Pinot has robust blackberry and dark cherry flavors, touches of chocolate and tobacco, some spicy oak and a silky, seamless finish. It’s made from a blend of Pommard, Wadenswil and Dijon clones of pinot noir, and it’s aged in French oak. Pick up some Domaine Serene for yourself; it’ll improve over the next decade or so.

One of the best ways I know to spend $14 is to treat yourself and a pal to a bottle of Marques de Gelida Brut Reserva 2002 from Spain. Those who know me well know that I’m a Salon guy. But hey, who can afford to drink Salon more than once every few years? Well, at the other end of the price spectrum, yet astonishingly satisfying for the dough, is this terrific Spanish cava made from Maccabeo, Xarello, Parellada and Chardonnay. Thanks to Marques de Gelida’s yeasty, green apple notes, tiny bubbles and long finish, I’ve fooled people in blind tastings into thinking this was French Champagne. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a better wine value in the state.

In a very short stretch of time—about a dozen years—Italy’s Planeta family has become one of that country’s leading wine producers. Since French white Burgundy and good California Chardonnay have become so expensive, I frequently turn to Italy for Chardonnay. Planeta Chardonnay 2004 ($39) is splendid. Aged in half new and half old French oak barriques for a year, Planeta Chardonnay has rich toast and honey fragrances. This is a big, lush, fruit-loaded Chard. I love it with roasted chicken.

I wrote recently in this column about my favorite Sauvignon Blanc discovery of the year: Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($17) from Napa Valley. It’s a clean, superb, uncluttered representation of the Sauvignon Blanc varietal, with no oak or malolactic treatment. If you’ve forgotten what good Sauvignon Blanc is supposed to taste like, treat yourself to a bottle of Charles Krug in the New Year.

Another fortunate wine discovery from 2007 was happening upon a bottle of white wine called Bodegas Berroja “Berroia” Bizkaiko Txakolina 2005 ($15) from Pais Vasco, Spain. The bottle caught my eye because it looked Greek or maybe Hungarian to me. Berroia is light straw-colored, medium-bodied and extremely crisp, with grassy undertones and a long finish. It’s a very refreshing wine that pairs wonderfully with a vast array of fish and seafood but also works nicely with spicy Asian dishes, Jamaican jerk chicken and even Indian chicken vindaloo.

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